The Comfort Pursuit

a city in between times

Christchurch is no longer what it was. Christchurch is not yet what it is meant to become. After the recent earthquakes, Christchurch lives now a ‘time in between times’. While buildings are demolished and empty sites wait for insurance payments, the city has to find a way of providing space and activity for ‘normal life’ to get back into place. 

Seeking for a way of keeping the urban environment alive, some innovative endeavors came to light. For the past two years a new quirky temporary and highly changeable style is easily seen throughout the city. In the Central City is possible to see, for example, a Pop Up Mall made of ship containers, an event pavilion made of pallets and a washing machine that plays music.

Pod Park
Pod Park

A bit further out from the centre, a café is located in shack made of wood and Lego, and landscape structures give shape to pocket parks.

My research has a strong cultural focus. Roughly speaking, it is based on how the collective perception of local landscapes influences adaptation to the climate. I applied methods of participant observation, in-depth interviews and microclimatic data collection with the purpose of understanding the local culture background that influences adaptation to the local climate.

The field work took place in four sites, all in Christchurch. Two ‘established urban settings’ (minimally affected by the earthquakes) and two ’emerging urban settings’ (which suffered major damage and had to be demolished and, eventually, rebuild). An interesting aspect of this research approach was that while the established settings proved to be great places to consistently understand how the city culture works, the emerging sites are adaptive in themselves, forcing users to work out their way in constantly changing sites. This urban condition is unique and provides endless amusement. 

IMG_4301In one of the two emerging sites, which is a retail area constituted of containers, every day of field work faced some novelty. Containers shifted around, new food courts, new containers that just arrived or old ones that had disappeared. The other emerging site was no different. A café located in a shack placed in a garden, which also hosted a little office. One day the office owners were carefully keeping the gardens, in the next day their office was gone. On a third day new landscape elements were inserted into place, structuring the new so-called ‘Pod Park’.

The Transitional Projects – in the scope of Christchurch rebuild – or the emerging urban sites – in the scope of my doctoral research – are a sample of the metamorphosis Christchurch has been going through. And this is just the exciting start of a largely renewed city.

Further reading:

Bowring, J., & Swaffield, S. (2013). Shifting landscapes in between times. Harvard Design Magazine, 36, 96-105.

Gap Filler: http://www.gapfiller.org.nz/

Greening the Rubble: http://greeningtherubble.org.nz/wp/

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